Despite having dual roles as the Campbell Union High School District (CUHSD) WorkAbility Coordinator, as well as CUHSD’s Transition Specialist, Gina Rodriguez has a single, unified goal: to help CUHSD’s special education population and postsecondary adults (ages 18 to 22) prepare and plan for a meaningful future.
"The focus is the whole transition plan, but the main piece is that [employment] piece,” says Rodriguez in an interview with VirtualJobShadow.com. “To gain those work skills, to get them out there and have them get a job and be part of that community."
Funded by the California Department of Education, WorkAbility is a nationally recognized "school-to-work" program that offers students with IEPs the opportunity to obtain job-seeking and job-keeping skills. In order to maintain the WorkAbility grant, Rodriguez is required to provide proof of services, such as student assessment tools, pre-employment skills training, vocational training, career counseling, recruitment strategies, and how to transition students to a quality adult life.
"That's the biggest thing," says Rodriguez, "a way for us to hit those areas we have to hit to satisfy the grant."
Unfortunately, the regional career exploration platform that CUHSD had been using was discontinued. Rodriguez was suddenly in need of a new platform that would provide educators and district job developers with the resources and tools required to serve their students and postsecondary adults.
"We don't just want to throw students any job," Rodriguez says. "We're here to find something students want to do."
In order to help maintain their high level of service, meet student and educator needs, as well as the WorkAbility grant requirements, Rodriguez and CUHSD had to find a new platform immediately.
VirtualJobShadow.com’s extensive, flexible, and content-rich platform was able to provide Rodriguez and the CUHSD with the college and career readiness resources they needed to serve students and maintain funding.
“I realized just how big the program was and how much we could do with it,” says Rodriguez. “It’s all-encompassing.”
Having attended a live, virtual workshop, Rodriguez decided the FlexLesson feature would make a great introductory demonstration to her colleagues, especially since any lesson could be adjusted to fit multiple learning levels. Right away, the teachers and job developers began cloning and editing Rodriguez’s lesson, thus creating their own FlexLessons customized to fit their specific needs.
"I felt like I laid the groundwork for them to get hooked," says Rodriguez.
One way Rodriguez fulfilled the WorkAbility requirements was to utilize the extensive library of videos. With thousands of Job shadowing, Q&A, and Life Skills videos to choose from, students and individuals were able to obtain vocational training and career counseling directly from VirtualJobShadow.com. CUHSD was then able to take full adavantage of the Career Cluster Interest Surveys and the built-in reporting tools to provide the proof of services required by the grant.
"That's the biggest thing," Rodriguez says. "This is definitely a way for us to hit those areas we have to hit to satisfy the grant."
By adopting VirtualJobShadow.com, CUHSD and Rodriguez quickly and seamlessly provided a career exploration platform that fit the needs of the students and postsecondary young adults they served.
"Just based off the past six months of use, I see how much students use it and how much they like it," Rodriguez says. "I honestly thought it was going to take a full year to get it up and running.”
By generating regular usage reports, Rodriguez could see that within those six months all of the students and staff of the postsecondary program had become regular users, and the high school student usage was constantly climbing.
"Reporting is so much easier for me when Admin asks how the program is going,” says Rodriguez. “Admin likes numbers, so I can simply point out the stats on who's using it versus who is not and the frequency."
With the ability to see what teachers and students were or were not using, Rodriguez could give a nudge to those that needed it and point them to the appropriate FlexLessons that either she or others had already created.
VirtualJobShadow.com’s videos have proved to be especially invaluable. By helping students discover the realities of work and whether or not a job will meet their expectations, the video library has provided needed insight into the many career opportunities that are out there, regardless of skill level or ability.
But, most importantly, considering the special needs of the population being served, students and instructors found the platform’s flexibility and ease of use both convenient and beneficial.
"I am just beginning the planning process for the next school year," says Rodriguez. "What I'm hoping to do is take some of the assessments/forms/lessons WorkAbility would use to support our students and teachers and put them onto VirutalJobShadow.com as a lesson, incorporating videos as examples. Then, the teachers don't need to track these things as they are completed because the system does that. It's actually less work for them!"
Rodriguez also intends to expand the platform’s usage by providing in-person, work-based learning, which will give educators qualitative insights and students a chance to reflect and plan before choosing a career path.
With a multi-year plan in place, VirtualJobShadow.com is proud to be able to assist Rodriguez and her colleagues with their goal of helping the students and individuals under CUHSD’s care prepare and plan for a meaningful future.